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Today Techno Real Estate Agent Must Haves

August 04 2010

6arm girlTechnology and Real Estate really do go hand-in-hand today. What technologies a Real Estate Agent chooses to use may be what sets them apart from their competition. And this business is brutally competitive at times. Making some basic choices as you approach Real Estate Technology is a good foundation if you want to become the “High Tech” real estate agent.

Someone recently asked me what I would suggest they do, as a new agent, to try to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. The following are just some basics that I think would be helpful for any real estate professional, and all very easy to use.

Tools of the Real Estate Trade:

1. ) Smart Phone – I use a Blackberry Curve from Sprint, and I love it. I have been a Blackberry user for a number of years. I did briefly switch to an iPhone, for exactly 20 hours. The iPhone was not the right tool for me, but lots of real estate professionals love it. 

For me the choice in what Smartphone I use are based on the following: Quality of the phone calls, ease of touch typing, and logical business function. I find the Blackberry very well suited for this (I have had 3 Blackberry Curves and the Blackberry Bold; I am not a fan of the Storm). Apps are fine and dandy, and I do feel the loss of not having the Trulia app (that one thing I really enjoyed on the iPhone), but my MLS is mobile, and that makes life just as easy.

To select the right Smartphone for you – ask friends if you can try their phones, call someone you trust and have a conversation, ask them to take notes on the clarity of the call, and take notes yourself, and then compare. For a real estate agent I think call quality is the number one determining factor – if the client can’t hear us, or has to ask “What?” too many times, it can be frustrating for them.


2.) Laptop – A MUST have. A good laptop, with enough processing power to support at least 3-4 open applications at a time.  Whether you choose a Mac or a PC compatible, it is up to you. Always consider the platforms that your vendors support (ie. Our MLS is optimized for Internet Explorer, and it barks at me when I open it in Chrome). Your budget is important. I find that I go through laptops about every two years, I often spend 6-8 hours a day using mine for work, between database work, MLS searches, client letters, and a variety of websites. The size of the screen and comfort of the keyboard is also important. In the last 5 months another consideration has come to my attention – the glare of the screen. I sometimes work outside when I am with clients on the road, whether the back of my SUV or my laptop sitting on top of my car to pull up additional information on a property, and setting the brightness will eat a battery up, I wish I had a monitor that displayed better in bright light. A note for my next purchase I guess.

3.) A personal Wi-Fi device – This is a new must have. I use the Sprint Wi-Fi Hotspot. It can offer up to 5 connections, has its own memory card, and can also act as a file server. The beauty of it is the ease of mobile connections, no matter where I go.  The interesting thing about this device, is even if I can’t get phone service in a place, the Overdrive seems to be able to connect – and then my Blackberry jumps on the connection and I can make calls. Sometimes I use it just to amplify my phone service. If you travel a lot, like I do, to Real Estate technology events, and educational events, it is also very nice at the hotel – you don’t need to pay for the hotel Wi-Fi, you have your own. I really prefer the freestanding device like the Overdrive from Sierrra over an aircard, because you can share it, or I turn it on and leave it in my laptop bag, a bit less fragile than an aircard.


4.) iPad – I think this is THE must have. For presentations, for ease of use and the small amount of space it takes up, the capabilities are great. I have used many, and talked with a lot of my friends who have them, and I have that on my “must have” list as my next big purchase. The razzle-dazzle for the client is sometimes well worth the cost of the device.

5.) GPS – I think a GPS is a great tool for an experienced real estate agent, but I would not recommend one for an agent who has been in their market for less than 2-3 years. Here is my reasoning: If you start the business with a GPS you never really learn to get to places yourself. How can you give directions to someone who calls on floor duty to see a listing if you don’t know how to get there yourself? Imagine how much credibility you lose when you say “ummm, hang on – let me pull it up on Google Maps.” Yes, right there you sound inexperienced.

For the seasoned professional it is a great time saver, as it helps you get to a home in an area you might know very well, but not that particular street.

6.) A Google Account – Google has some amazing applications and products that I use regularly; some require an invitation to get, others are just available. Here are a few I use and why:

  • Google Voice – Love it! It installs an application on your smart phone, and allows you to check your voicemail from that, you also get your own number, can screen calls, can send texts from the web based application, listen to messages from your laptop, make outgoing calls, and so much more. The best feature (sometimes a bit weak) is the text transcription of your voicemail, which is sent to you via email and also appears in the application. That has saved me so much time.

  • Picasa – Sometimes you have a client who would like to see more photos, whether they are local, in the next state, or around the world. I will take photos at a property for them, and upload them to Picasa and then share it with them. The clients are pleased, and it makes my life easier.
  • Google Docs – Sometimes emailing paperwork can be cumbersome. With Google Docs you can upload documents, and share them with specific people. Yes there are a lot of other services that do similar things, but again – all in one with Google does make it easier.
  • Google Wave – to have a live conversation with a client online via an instant messenger like environment, and also be able to upload and share documents in a “wave” is super easy.

7.) Digital Camera – a MUST have. The more compact, the better, I feel. I have  Sony high-def 10.2 megapixel I purchased in 2006, and it also allows me to shoot videos, I keep it with me all the time, so if I a client wants to remember something about a house, I can shoot it – upload it to Picasa, and they can share it with whomever they want.

So what have I missed that you like to use? Let me know, I am all about the technology! Now go razzle-dazzle those clients!

 

Other articles of interest: AgentOffice | MLSFinder.com